A huge fan of Brandy, Tafari Anthony could talk about her greatness and influence for days. We only chatted about her for a second in comparison though while keeping our conversation circling latest release, Remember When. It dropped at the start of September and has already given the world “To The End.” A beautiful single with an anthem many of us can relate, that too was on the table. Now let’s get to it!
Kendra: Your story hit home for me. Differing just a little in my situation with the whole idea of the expectations of people wanting something very specific of you based solely on the color of your skin. How did you personally combat that?
Tafari Anthony: I think it’s something I still struggle with daily. Any move I make, somewhere in the back of my mind I’m wondering how are people going to see or think of me. As I got older and started facing issues around my sexuality, out of necessity, I had to figure out who I was personally regardless of race and sexuality. I couldn’t let those be my only defining factors.
Kendra: For you was it harder to be your true self as a black man or a gay man in not only music but in the world as a whole?
Tafari: I don’t know that I can separate the two at this point. I’ve never solely been just one, so the struggles of both go hand in hand for me. As a black, gay man I always felt like I had to fight just that much harder. Growing up it was an issue of trying not to be “found out.” Because of this, I had a hard time being around black men, especially at a time where homophobia was so ingrained in the culture. The last thing you wanted to do was be different. It took quite a while for me to become comfortable with being black and gay. In all honesty, I still catch myself struggling with it from time to time.
For the most part, I live in a great place surrounded by people where race and sexuality is not an issue. But there are definitely times where I’m reminded just how much of an issue people still have regarding both. I mean…if the current state of the USA is any indication, it’s a very trying time.
Kendra: Now onto the music, you’ve got a new album and a new single out and about. When you were recording Remember When, how did you want it to differ from 2016’s Die For You?
Tafari: I tried to keep the same mindset as Die for You – do what feels right at the time. For both records, I started out with a general idea of what I wanted them to sound like, but I left room for the songs to evolve organically. I didn’t want to feel tied down by a specific sound/genre. Overall Die for You had more of a rock/alternative feel to it, while Remember When ended up taking a bit more of a pop turn. I had been rediscovering my love for pop music and that ended up influencing the overall sound for this record.
Kendra: Your lead single, “To The End,” can definitely be an anthem for many. What was going through your mind when you penned it?
Tafari: I was struggling with being a musician and debated getting that classic 9 to 5 job to make sure bills could be paid. All my friends were starting to get married, having kids, buying houses and all that adulting stuff. Being surrounded by that while you’re living paycheck to paycheck while trying to make music can bring up a lot of the sentiments in that song.
Kendra: Let’s go way back for a second. You’ve noted Brandy as an influence of yours. If she approached you to redo one of her classic tracks, which would you hope she recommended?
Tafari: Oh my gosh…What are you trying to do to me?! Haha! Full Moon, to this day is my go to Brandy album! I would die if she wanted me to cover the song “Anybody.” But if we’re talking mainstream single, hands down, “Almost Doesn’t Count.” That song is the epitome of everything I love. It’s like the perfect mix of country music storytelling, but with soul vocal arrangements and modern sounding production.
Kendra: Now that you have the new album out, what are your plans for the rest of the year?
Tafari: I’m currently back on tour with my acappella band, Eh440, for the fall/winter. I’m already making plans to get back in the studio for some more music, and planning some visuals for the EP. Also, hopefully I’ll have some remixes out before the end of the year as I love to see how other people reimagine my songs.
Kendra: Lastly, we’re all about the creative arts here at ZO. With that, if you had to compare your latest release to a work of art – which would it be and why?
Tafari: I’m gonna go with Brush Your Blues by Shikeith Cathey.
This image is so simple, yet captures and evokes so much emotion and passion. What I love about it is how Shikeith was able to capture these men in a way you don’t often see black men depicted. There is a softness to the image, yet still so much strength. You feel that there is a struggle, but still an overwhelming sense of optimism for things to come. It’s how I hope my music is seen; Simple, beautiful, emotional and optimistic.